The Mass Shifts

9

Site-014 was gone, no more than crumbling, cooked concrete on the surface and a mere reminder of the site what once was, it's smoldering ashes caking the desert sands in a fine line of dust and death. Not even the stench of decay remained as the cleansing radiation washed over the surrounding area, wiping the slate clean of any living presence.

A scattered few were fortunate enough to be on the outskirts of the site or within specialized bunkers. But dead men don't speak, so eye-witness accounts of the events have varied greatly, to say the least. Stories of some woman as a living reactor, of aggressive lizards who should remain frozen as they are, and of lonely AIs doing anything for attention. None of these stories are as horrifying as the ugly truth I witnessed way back when.


I was a nightshift janitor for most of my adulthood, and I was like any other at Site-014. Cleaning floors, wiping up some poor souls blood, that sort of thing. I had been cleaning near the entrance of Site-014, or what's now referred to as RPC-794 on the lower fifth floor, but at the time no such properties existed and it was like any other door. If I remember correctly, I was getting ready to take my lunch break for the morning when my vision had begun to obscure, and before I knew it I was somewhere familiar, but different entirely.

When I awoke, I hadn't even noticed I had passed out, I simply thought that I must have tripped suddenly. That changed quickly however as I observed my new surroundings. The paint that covered the halls had seemed to have aged rapidly, changing from that of an ivory white to a putrid yellow, like that of aged paper. Of course, I was understandably confused but I got up and proceeded to observe the decrepit halls of my mystery location.

After wandering for roughly an hour I had discerned that I was still within Site-014, but some strange perversion of its structure and layout. With stairways that led to nowhere, janitors closets that stretched the size of a football field, and other bizarre phenomena. I had surmised that a containment breach had occurred, but to what extent or damage I did not know considering I could not find nor contact any personnel within the facility. But at the time my bodily functions took priority and I needed to use the nearby bathroom.

As I entered the men's restroom I carefully observed my surroundings, as far as I could perceive at the time, the bathroom had remained unchanged to the one I used only a few hours before the incident. Believing it to be safe for the time being I opened up the nearest stall but to my utter shock a small cloud was floating above the toilet, and the sudden movement of air propelled the cloud towards me!

I instinctively bolted from the bathroom and out the door, but for reasons unknown, the cloud had followed suit, leaving a trail of quickly evaporating molten metal in its wake. The cloud itself was fortunately slow, and I was able to avoid its molten punishment by hiding in a broom closet until it passed by. When I returned to the bathroom, the toilet it was once over was in ruin but the rest of the stalls were fine and I proceeded to do my business there.


After looking for and discovering the now city block-sized cafeteria, I opened the cafeteria doors to discover what could only be described as a large crowd of concrete humanoid statues, dust shaking off of them as they aimlessly wandered the massive cafeteria. I had made the unfortunate mistake of making direct eye contact with one of the randomly scattered masses, their speed bodies astonished me as all the nearby masses quickly snapped their heads to "look" at me with their definition-less faces. I was right to try and exit from the premise as quick as I could, as their solid stone bodies swiftly gave chase.

Fortunately, I had kept my mop on me as a rudimentary weapon, so I used the handle to bar the cafeteria doors close. Which I assumed would simply buy me a head start to run away, but this lack of direct eye contact seemed to quell the creature's aggression near instantly.

Some time had passed, roughly an hour or two at most as I paced around a nearby supply closet, my urges of hunger and self-preservation clashing within the vestiges of my mind. In the supply closet lay nothing but some cleaning supplies, a few pencils, and a long piece of cloth. I had decided to grab the cloth to use as a makeshift blanket in the event I tried to sleep within this dimension.

I held the cloth up to measure how long it really was and observed as the cloth had blocked the fluorescent light from reaching my eyes completely, obscuring my vision somewhat while standing in the cramped closet. This obscuring of my vision gave me the excellent idea of using said suitably sized cloth and covering myself with it as a child would hiding from the fabrications of their imagination at night.

This albeit childish idea was exemplary on my part, as this allowed me to easily abuse the behavioral patterns of the creatures. They may be fast but are easily fooled. As such, I made my way across the vast, expansive field of lunch tables and reached the food storage at the back of the cafeteria, with some close calls along the way.

My overconfidence with outsmarting RPC-794-4, coupled with my overall inexperience with this lands RPCs compared to their "normal" variant in my home dimension led to me making the unfortunate mistake of getting careless and not checking the back of the cafeteria before I entered.

I had reached the end of the cafeteria and swung open the door, only to be greeted by a mouthful of hallucinogenic gas. This was my first encounter of what is now referred to as RPC-794-5, or how I refer to them as the "human whacking weed". I quickly stepped back, coughing and sputtering as the gas made its way through the cloth I was covered up in. I wanted to risk taking it off for air but knew I couldn't for the risk of the concrete men becoming enraged.

The chemical concoction released by the plant was chalky, bitter, with a sickly sweet aftertaste akin to raw honeycomb. Just one breath of the substance burned my lungs as if the gas itself had an iron like grasp against them, and to punish me for my lax in security it just so happened to put my mind into a stupor. Sending my subconscious into the deepest, darkest crevices of my mind like a young boy being forcibly thrown into the deep end. Whatever this place's true purpose is I do not know, but its hospitality policy seems to be a baptism by fire.

I don't remember much of my childhood. As far as I can remember I never really had one. As a result, I do not know if the gas had given me false memories or if my mind simply wished they were false. I remember my grandparents being apart of The Authority, and as such, I was able to go to a normal school and such but heavily monitored. I always knew to join The Authority would be an inevitability, but I metaphorically kicked and dragged at any opportunity to live a normal life. Or at least what I had believed to be normal.

I wandered aimlessly while under the effects of the gas, hallways that once was the humble Site-014 would appear as massive playgrounds for brief instances, only to just as briefly swap to the ground looking like a massive operating table. I remember being operated on a lot in my early years, no older than 10. Where or when I do not know, I only remember the sensation of cold steel pressing upon my back, and of the unforgiving chemicals being pumped into my body in an attempt to keep me under during the operation. Is that what that place had done to me? Attempt to keep me under? In what way did it want me? Was I shown that memory on purpose, or perhaps it was mere circumstance?

If there's one truth to working with the Authority, it's that the only answers are more questions.
This same truth applies to 794. I do not know what my body did while under the effects of the gas, only that I remember wandering aimlessly akin to the concrete men who I had previously encountered. Is that how they came to be? As far as I knew at the time, all the members of Site-014 had either perished or became these concrete abominations. And even now I still cannot confirm or deny that. What if others were spared from nuclear cleansing as I had? And those that survived were only spared so that they may be soon killed and morphed into the sedimentary beasts that know now as RPC-794-4?


I awoke with a splitting headache, in a similar fashion to how I had first awoken within the RPC. My location was still within 794's depths, but somewhere I had not previously explored. The gas had ravaged my lungs, leaving me temporarily unable to take more than quick breaths. I also noticed that I had lost the cloth I used to hide from the concrete men when I "saw" the cloth only a few meters away. I began to walk towards the cloth to retrieve it, but something was off. Out of the corner of my vision, I believed I saw the walls themselves ripple like water.

When I turned to face the wall, nothing was out of the ordinary. However, when I turned back around, the cloth was gone. I had begun to go and retrieve it from down the hall, but as soon as I took a step forward, every fiber of my being told me to stop in my tracks. I do not know if my mind had conjured up some non-existent specter, or if the gas from before still lingered, but I swear I had felt a presence staring at me from where the hallway curved at the end. I never took the opportunity to take a closer look, as I feared some unspeakable horror lay beyond the corner of my vision. Some incorporeal phantom watching my every move within its labyrinth of perpetual hallways and deadly inhabitants.

I do not know approximately how long I had remained within the confines of 794's dimension, in one moment it would only feel a days length, and in the very next moment, I would feel as if I had spent months of my life within RPC-794. I had taken temporary reprieve for myself within what used to be a containment chamber. Even now I find this ironic, that the only place that felt safe enough to rest was the very place the staff would use to house what was the most unsafe. Most normal activities, such as eating, sleeping, etc were complicated by my surroundings. As a result, my stomach would shiver up as if I had not eaten in a week, but feel completely full the next minute after.

The food I could find was pre-packaged and was what Site-014 had at the time. Within my makeshift shelter, I had written down several notes based on what I had encountered, which had helped to keep track of most of the anomalies found within RPC-794's official documentation.


How long I had been within my makeshift shelter had felt like only five minutes, but as I was sitting down and resting. My facial hair began to rapidly grow far beyond that of its normal speed. I realized that some sort of distortion effect was occurring and I attempted to escape the chamber I rested in.

When reaching the exit door and opening it, the stairway I had used to enter the containment chamber seemed to ebb and flow, like moving water. I could almost swear that upon touching the stairway rail that I could feel a heartbeat within it. Despite exiting the chamber, my hair and nails had been growing at the same rate as they had before. Since time was of the essence, I regret to say that I had violated site rules and slid down the stairway using its railing, only to slide down far longer than the original climb up took. Eventually, I reached the exit of the stairway only to be met with the most curious of sights. My handwriting.

Written on the exit door of the 6th-floor stairway, was a message written in my handwriting, albeit a more professional version. The message read "The fire is your door." To this day, when I scrawled this message, or even if I did at all remains unknown to myself. Only that it let me remember a crucial detail about Site-014. As a janitor, I did not know the approximate location of it, but I knew from word of mouth that a nuclear fail-safe existed within the bowels of Site-014. And that detonation of said fail-safe would wipe the creatures within this site from existence, or damn well should.

Steeling my courage, I found the nearest staircase that led downward and began my descent. Oddly enough, I encountered very little resistance from the anomalies within 794, almost as if it wanted me to reach it's lower chambers. At this point, my facial hair and fingernails had ceased their rapid, uncontrolled growth. But it did not phase me at the moment as I simply trudged on towards my destination.

Surprisingly enough, locating the failsafe room was not difficult. Even within RPC-794, the failsafe mechanism had been significantly altered. Within the normal Site-014, the failsafe had been activated by two separate switches. Both of which had to be activated by the Site Director. This failsafe, however, was different. The failsafe was a single keycard slot and a shielded button, that would only be opened with the Site Director's office keycard.

Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for him. The site director's corpse was located within said office, his neck having been cut through, dried blood caking his lips and the stench of decay permeating the room before me. The site director's keycard was fortunately located around his lanyard. I never knew the Site Director that well, despite the numerous years I worked as Janitorial staff at Site-014. Someone as high ranking as he rarely ever communicated to me more than commands and the occasional thank you. He seemed like a decent fellow, but I never really knew him that well even when he was still an accountant, and I would make small talk while I was picking up paychecks. I don't mourn his death but I did not wish it upon him either. The most unnerving part of reaching the failsafe however, was not the lack of hostile creatures on the way there, nor the corpse lying in the room. But a second, familiarly written message.

Said message was scrawled next to the wall adjacent to the site director's corpse, in the same familiar handwriting. It read "This tomb is not yours, but you are not the only one who occupies it. You will free more than just yourself." right above the failsafe switch. Steeling my courage, and accepting the worst I clutched the keycard from the previous director's corpse and inserted it into the simple keycard switch. The protective layering popped away from the button and I pushed the button before I could second guess my actions and braced for impact.


Five seconds, ten, and nothing. I slowly closed my eyes to see that nothing had changed. Relieved, I gazed at the message again and surmised that freeing myself was to be taken literally. Which means I had a chance at finally leaving this hellish, perverted facility. As soon as I turned around, however, I met the gaze of a concrete man, who's featureless exterior "stared" me down from right outside of the office. It lunged for my throat with astonishing speed.

I narrowly moved out of the way of its grasp, it's hand mere inches from my neck. I retaliated by hopping over the site directors desk and brandishing his stainless steel chair. The creature lunged for me once more, and with both fear and bravado, I swung the chair in an upward motion, the chair connected, and left nothing more than a crumbling stub where the creature's right arm once was. Turns out, that even site directors were given cheap chairs, as the chair was made of a cheap aluminum the entire time. And as a result, became dented and too clunky to use as a weapon.

Panicking, I quickly ducked under the desk and away from its current field of view. Pausing briefly, I was shocked to see that the creature bent over the desk and its excuse for a face's gaze met my own. Quickly thinking, I heaved my body as best as I could, using the creature's awkward positioning over the desk to my advantage. I hoisted upward, sending the desk as well as the granite creation tumbling towards the ground.

With the creature successfully incapacitated. I quickly pocketed the site director keycard and made my way to the surface, or at least tried to. Whatever the anomalous factor that kept changing the layout of the structure was, did not want me to leave. As I ran out of the office, the hallway itself began to distort and warp, at first expanding to as if I was running in place. Then quickly snapping back to normal size, which threw my balance off. The hallway then began to violently twist and turn, rapidly changing the position of both the ceiling and floor.

After many hits to the head and many expletives said, I was able to make my way out of the hall and back the way I came, however now with much more difficulty. It seems every anomaly knew of my location and wanted a piece of me after activating the fail-safe. Multiple, metallic rainclouds headed down the hallway I was proceeding towards, their raindrops sizzle echoing across the hostile hallway. I took an adjacent stairway, and right in the nick of time as the hallway now behind me began to take on a previously unseen semi-liquid consistency.

As I made my way up the stairs, right before reaching the door, the stairs themselves suddenly became incredibly smooth and friction-less, resulting in me smacking onto the concrete and hanging onto the guardrail for dear life. I quickly gained my bearings, however, as I had begun to feel the same murderous presence as I had before from the bottom of the staircase. Using the railing as a makeshift ladder, I climbed the short distance to what was the 6th floor. Salvation was in sight.

Or at least, another concrete man was. As it lunged at me as soon as I opened up the door. I had no time to react, and as such it swiftly grabbed by the neck and began to crush it with astonishing force. With the wind effectively knocked out of me, the creature lifted me off the ground and nearly dropped me from the top of the staircase and to the multiple floor drop down below. Using the strength I had, I delivered a swift kick to the creature's leg. It buckled but barely budged as it was made of sterner stuff than mere human flesh and tissue.

I had believed this to be the end of me. I knew I would not die if I was dropped down the stairs, but knew that whatever was awaiting me down the staircase had such a menacing presence, I could practically feel it's murderous intent wafting through the air as it stared at me from an unknown direction. If there even was a form at all, or even eyes to stare at me with. As I was beginning to black out, to my sheer luck. An explosion was heard, and the resulting shockwave from the explosion took the concrete creature just enough off that it slightly loosened its grip.

This lessening in grip allowed me to get one good breath in, which was all my adrenaline-addled mind needed to break free while it was distracted. I quickly faced it's back and pushed with my full body weight against the brutish, basalt-based body and heaved! The force of which was just enough to send it careening over the railing instead of myself. Oddly enough, I do not ever remember hearing it crash against the bottom of the staircase. Mostly because I hadn't wasted time in sticking around.

I would later learn that the explosion that saved my life was the result of Project Paradise. An attempt by The Authority to destroy, or at least prevent the source of this labyrinth I was attempting to escape. Fortunately, in all my weeks, days or months spent within RPC-794, I never became close enough to get into contact with the primary source of the pocket dimension.

The explosion somehow seemed to re-stabilize the once unstable and ever-changing layout of the facility. Which greatly aided in my escape, but one last obstacle blocked my path on the final stretch. On the 5th floor, in the only available hallway towards the exit, were the roots of RPC-794-5. The same plant-based entity that nearly made me meet my doom previously. Fortunately, no gas seemed to be in production, and the roots themselves were covered in recent scorch marks. The leaves of the plant, however, remain untouched and razor sharp.

Gazing past the plant and down the rest of the hallway, I noticed a familiar looking door. The same door in fact, that I had been cleaning near before I was transported to this corrupted landscape. My mind pieced together that if that door was what brought me here, it was my ticket to freedom. The message had been correct, fire truly was my door. If the instance of RPC-794-5 hadn't been already semi-burnt, there was no chance of me crossing the plant's range and making it to the other side unaffected by its gas. The same gas that had, and would have again forced me to make my intoxicated mind force itself to the lower depths of the now even more hostile facility.

Preparing a sprinter's pose, I prepared myself to run and jump over the charred plants before their leaves could cause me fatal damage. I propelled myself as fast as I could, hurdling over the cooked roots and hazardous leaves. I was both fortunate and unfortunate, as I had endured multiple severe cuts near my lower back, thighs, and one across my left arm. All of which tore through my clothing as if it were non-existent.

With my final challenge defeated. I slowly, but gladly opened up the heavy, metallic exit door to RPC-794. I was immediately met with several gun barrels aimed directly at my chest. Courtesy of MST-Golf 1. I was quickly detained and brought through the proper channels to ensure I was not an anomalous entity, or that I was a threat in any sort of way.


After multiple days of recovery in the nearest medical facility, I was briefed of what caused RPC-794 to manifest, and the true fate of Site-014. No more remained of the old site than a crater-sized reminder of what once was, it's smoldering ruins scattered about between the desert sands. But The Authority remained unfazed, what most would see as a devastating loss The Authority simply saw a chance to rebuild and learn from their previous shortcomings.

Site-014 was gone, that much remained true. But from its ashes rose a site far greater than any of its previous predecessors. It's smoldering ruins remaining as a memorial for the dearly departed. I was personally brought into several meetings. Where which numerous important decisions had been decided. Amnesticization was considered for me, of course. But whoever had the final say on the matter recognized the many hardships that I had gone through and decided that it would better suit The Authority's interests that I remained with my memories, with the condition that I am to be promoted from Janitor to Senior Researcher of RPC-794. Which was fortunate since I retained my memories, but unfortunate that to do so I had to study what I considered my own personal hell for what to me felt like months, but according to The Authority was no longer than a week.

Reports showed that the door that was both the entrance and exit of RPC-794 had been one of the few structures to remained after the detonation. But it's anomalous properties had not been fully realized until I activated the bizarre, unique to itself failsafe that was deep within the site. It is my hypothesis that activating said failsafe was what began RPC-794's (The Mass') rapid expansion of RPC 794-7, but what also allowed the aforementioned door to work as both an entrance and exit.

Project Paradise was deemed successful by The Authority, as their mission successfully halted the progress of RPC-794-7's growth even now, a month after. Even so, I occasionally feel the same, extreme murderous presence that I had while within RPC-794-1. I to this day still do not fully know what this presence is, a trick made up by my mentally scarred mind? An uncontained RPC? Mere anxiety? I do not fully know for sure which, but it seems The Authority tends to lean towards the first suggestion, as they have not included the mention of said presence within official documentation of RPC-794.

My name is Dr. Daniel Cullum, although most childishly refer to me as "Dr. Cuts". I am the Senior Researcher of RPC-794, and no matter how many falls humanity has. What defines who we are as people is how we get back up, if it all. The darkest of nights are always accompanied by the brightest of mornings but after my experiences with RPC-794, I know I can simply shrug off any dark nights the world decides to throw at me as I know The Authority has. Their true intentions might not always be known by me, they may remain in the shadows on purpose, and they definitely walk a fine line of moral ambiguity. But if one thing is assured, is that as long as those that wish to threaten humanity exist, The Authority will be there to Research, Protect, and Contain.

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